Walking into Askren Wrestling Academy, I immediately feel an energy level different from any other wrestling club in the state. The brotherhood runs deep off the mats with smiles and laughter. And on the mats, it's all business with thirty high school boys ready to learn and battle. I walk into AWA everyday motivated to work as hard as I can with my brothers by my side.
The man who's in charge, John Mesenbrink, may come off as a mild mannered, soft spoken guy outside of the wrestling room. But when he walks the halls of Arrowhead High School (where he teaches ninth grade science), he is polite and kind and few people would guess once Coach Mesenbrink walks through the doors of AWA, he transforms into one of the most intense humans on the planet. The kind of intensity that pulls you into his presence like a magnet.
The first time I met coach, I was in third grade watching the high school team practice. I was mesmerized by the intensity and passion the team practiced with.
“We are going to push the pace now so we can push the pace when it counts,” Coach yelled. He inspired his athletes to break down their own mental barriers.
I was so shocked when I saw he wrestled with the team (because most coaches just barked orders). Mesenbrink goes through grind with his athletes, building a rare coach to athlete bond. And this bond has created a wall of trust between us that can’t be knocked down.
Coach Mesenbrink spent 15 years coaching the Arrowhead High School wrestling team. He led the program to two state final appearances and several individual state championships. He coached Ben Askren (a 2008 Olympian) who is considered the greatest wrestler in Wisconsin history.
Ben’s style of wrestling is another testament to Coach Mesenbrink’s outstanding coaching ability. Most coaches believe there is a correct and an incorrect way of doing techniques, but Coach Mesenbrink understands there are several paths to get to the same destination. He is willing to adapt his style of wrestling in order to accommodate everyone's individual style. He uses his expansive understanding of the sport to guide his athletes towards their goals but he also allows them to figure out things for themselves.
“We’re going to unleash fury this weekend!” or “We’re ready to smash those guys!” are some of my favorite words to hear when I’m nervous before competition. Mesenbrink says these things in a way that makes me believe it as fact.
“John’s knowledge and understanding of the sport of wrestling is second to none. He is one of the best coaches we have in the sport.” These words are from Troy Steiner (a Div. 1 national champion) and show how well respected Coach Mesenbrink is by all—and especially by me.